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Sujatha Senaratne new Additional Secy. Health

Minister and  his wife

In an unprecedented move, a top administrative position has been carved out in the Health Ministry for a Cabinet Minister’s wife whose earlier attempt to secure the directorship of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) was stalled following a Supreme Court (SC) directive, officials said.
NHSL deputy director, Dr. (Mrs) Sujatha Senaratne, wife of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne received her appointment last week as Additional Secretary (Public Health Services), one of the most powerful slots in the government health sphere.

In the mighty rush to accommodate her, the Medical Services and Public Health Services position held by Additional Secretary Dr. Palitha Mahipala was split into two, leaving the incumbent hanging on to the ‘Medical Services’ half, while the appointee for the reactivated slot has grabbed the slice pertaining to ‘Public Health Services’, the officials said.

An Additional Secretary is on par with the Director General of Health Services. This effectively means that Senaratne is now more senior in terms of designation than the NHSL directorship she vied for earlier, they pointed out.

Senaratne was earlier debarred by the SC from being considered to head Sri Lanka’s biggest state-run hospital. Her new appointment has raised eyebrows and triggered fresh concerns over attempts to politicize the government health administration as a deputy director has parachuted to a senior position over and above many veterans in the field, they said.

This senior position was originally created in 2010 with the objective of accommodating Dr. Terrence de Silva, a former NHSL director, but he was never given the appointment. Since then it, has remained under the purview of Dr. Mahipala.

In an exclusive report, The Sunday Island (June 10, 2012) reported ongoing spade work to push up Senaratne to a high-ranking position in the Health Ministry after her abortive bid to take over the NHSL directorship.

“It appears there has been immense lobbying plus bullying by political authorities until the appointment was pushed through”, officials asserted. “With the job done, they can rest now though a dangerous precedent has been created”.

With no other names of aspirants proposed, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has given the green light for the appointment on a “temporary basis”, they said. “This leaves room for a more qualified and deserving person to be appointed permanently, though the prospect is remote because of the political undertones”.

“It was a half-hearted appointment letter from the PSC”, officials said. “It seems obvious that nobody can be happy about abruptly breathing new life into such top slots on political considerations”.

With Dr. Anil Jasingha appointed NHSL director, there are many veteran medical administrators who could have been considered for a fresh appointment to a rejuvenated position, the officials explained.

Amongst them are Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva, Western Province Director Health Services, Dr. Sam Samarasinghe, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Health, Dr. Ananda Gunasekara, former Director, Central Blood Transfusion Services and Dr. Roy Perera, Director, Ragama Teaching Hospital.

“Living with the thought, though unrealistic for lesser beings, that a deputy director can be pushed up to an Additional Secretary overnight is wonderful”, officials smiled. “It is akin to an ASP suddenly finding himself promoted as a DIG”.

By Suresh Perera


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